The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - the custodian of the Two Holy Places, Mecca and Medina - has been blamed for the deadly stampede on Thursday in which 717 Haj pilgrims lost their lives and nearly 863 were injured in one of the worst accidents in Makkah in the last 25 years.
Even as King Salman has ordered a thorough investigation on the incident, many eyewitness and stampede survivors have squarely accused the Saudis of 'mismanagement.'
On Thursday governor of Makkah Prince Khaled al-Faisal blamed the African nationals for the stampede, however, a report in The Guardian citing Haj pilgrims pointed fingers on the volunteers as they were too inexperienced to handle the crowd. At least 2 million Muslim believers are currently in Makkah to perform the annual Haj pilgrimage.
A haj pilgrim said that the volunteers responsible for managing the crowd, where not even aware about the roads around Mina. Another noted that none of them were trained to handle such large multilingual crowd, which often added to the confusion.
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According to a local report, the incident took place around 5 am (local time) as thousands of Haj pilgrims rushed through the Street 204 in Mina to participate in the 'stoning of the devil' ritual in Jamarat.
Jamarat is carried out on Eid al-Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice, and it symbolises the rejection of sin and temptation.
The stampede took place at the Street 204 in Mina, which is one of the two main roads that leads to camp Jamarat, where pilgrims ritually stone the devil by hurling pebbles. The pilgrims were allowed to continue towards the Jamrat complex for 'stoning of the devil' ritual after the civil defences forces cleared the bodies and took away the injured.
[Find out what led to the deadly stampede - Read]
As per the latest figures, the death toll stood at 717, while 863 others were injured. Authorities feared that the death toll may increase, Saudi civil defence reported. The stampede is the second deadliest at the Haj since 1990, when 1,426 people killed.
The injured have been rushed to General hospital Mina, Noor and Al-Watani Hospital Jeddah, while the officials are moving the bodies out of Mina. An emergency has been declared at all the hospitals in Makkah. Most of those killed and injured were pilgrims from Algeria, it is reported.
Unconfirmed reports suggested that 13 Indians were among those killed. A report from Kerala confirmed that one person, identified as Mohammad, a resident of Ernakulam district, was killed and another from Kottayam was injured.
Among the dead, 122 are Iranians.
The British Foreign Office, in the meantime, is also "urgently seeking information" on the whereabouts of over 20,000 UK nationals, who are in Mecca.
Over 1.5 lakh Indians are among the Haj pilgrims from across the world who are in Makkah for the pilgrimage.
Emergency helpline numbers for Indians in Mecca for Haj 2015 :
Toll free number for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia:
Emergency number for information on Pakistani haj pilgrims- +9661252777537
Videos released in the aftermath of the stampede show torn clothes and blood on the streets of Mina. Images show Saudi civil defence forces removing the bodies from the streets covered in white shrouds.
The spot of the incident is situated 5 km to the east of Mecca, and stands on the road to the Hill of Arafat.
In recent days, there has been a spate of incidents in Mecca, where over 2 million Muslim pilgrims have gathered for the annual Haj pilgrimage.
On Wednesday (23 September), over 200 pilgrims had fainted and suffered fatigue after they got trapped inside a train after its door malfunctioned. The pilgrims remained trapped inside the train for over 30 minutes.
On 11 September, over 100 pilgrims of various nationalities were killed when a huge crane crashed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Haj Stampede Photo Gallery [Disturbing Content]
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